Keeping Kids Well During a Covid Winter
During the colder months, it’s hard for a mom or dad to know exactly what is just a runny nose and what’s something a bit more serious. Add Covid-19 into that equation, and so many parents are straight-up bewildered as to when to take their child to the doctor or when to keep them home from day care. Thankfully, our good friends at Thrive Alabama Pediatrics are here to answer your questions about winter wellness, and how to keep your kids as healthy and safe as possible.
Big thanks to Dr. Neha Shah and Elizabeth Jennings, a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) for advising our readers and answering our questions!
Thrive Alabama Pediatrics Answers Parent Questions
Q.) Should I reschedule my child’s well-check until local COVID rates are better?
A.) No. Please, do not postpone your Well Child Checks. It is extremely important that all newborns, infants, children, and adolescents are up to date on their comprehensive well-child care. This includes all age-appropriate screenings, complete physical exams, laboratory exams, fluoride varnish, and vaccines. It is very important to ensure that your child remains up to date on their vaccinations and developmental checks as delays in these vaccines or needed referrals have unwanted outcomes. This is particularly important for children ages 3 and under.
However, if you are uncomfortable about seeking in-person medical care for your child, please check with your primary care provider. Most pediatric healthcare providers are taking extra precautions to ensure that your visit is safe. For instance, at Thrive Alabama Pediatrics we have adopted several safety measures:
- New workflows that decrease the amount of time your child spends in our office and exam rooms
- When patients are in the building all staff wear masks and special protective equipment
- Social distancing throughout the clinic’s shared spaces
- Enhanced cleaning protocols ensuring that all surfaces that patients come into contact with are meticulously cleaned between patients and on a daily schedule
Q.) What general tips do you have to keep my family healthy during the colder months in North Alabama?
- Frequent hand washing by all family members
- Wear your mask (children age 2 and above) whenever outside of your household, even with family and friends and even if socially distanced
- Practice social distancing
- Avoid large crowds and gatherings
- Encourage everyone in your household to avoid sharing personal items with each other (e.g., dishes, cups, towels, bedding)
- Use an effective household disinfectant to clean frequently touched surfaces and everyday items such as door handles, countertops, and faucets
- Separate and mask within the house as able if anyone has been exposed or is symptomatic
- All individuals 6 months and older should be vaccinated for Influenza, as long as not contraindicated by your primary care provider
Q.)Should similar quarantine measures be followed for Flu as for COVID?
Yes, as the symptoms of Flu and COVID overlap. We recommend reviewing symptoms with your healthcare provider given the overlap and need for next steps especially as there are medications for flu early in the illness, but not for COVID-19 at this time.
Typically, if someone tests positive for COVID-19, they must isolate at home, and separate from other household members as able – which is understandably hard with children, so we recommend discussing tips with your child’s pediatric provider. Further, the rest of the household must quarantine at home – that includes not going to work or school. Current flu rates are minimal for our area, possibly because it is early in the season or partially because masking reduces the spread of flu from respiratory droplets.
Q.) Is it too late to get a Flu vaccine for my child? What are my options?
It is not too late to receive your Flu shot! Although it is recommended everyone receive their Flu shot as early as possible, if you did not receive one it’s not too late as the season, which typically lasts through April. Due to the unpredictability of the Flu season and strain variants, providers are allowed to continue to administer the Flu vaccine until the seasonal vaccine’s expiration date, which is typically June 30, 2021.
Need a Flu vaccine for you or your child? Your family’s healthcare provider may offer them, as well as local retailers such as local pharmacies offer Influenza vaccines as well.
Q.) What kind of plans is your office making for the COVID vaccine distribution when it’s available?
We are in discussions with state and local health officials regarding plans for outpatient clinics and the procedures for distributing the vaccine once available. We will update our website and social media with details as they become available.
Q.) How do you know when to bring in a toddler that is congested? At what point do you do freak out about a snotty nose when everything might be a sign of COVID?
This is a hard question as possible symptoms of COVID-19 infection include: cough, fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, shortness of breath, chills, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, muscle pain, runny nose, feeling tired, and poor appetite. But your child could be completely asymptomatic. Further, children can have atypical symptoms. If your child exhibits any new or concerning symptoms, call your medical provider and discuss next steps during this pandemic.
It has been observed that the symptoms in children are often milder than those in adults, so a snotty nose can very well be an indication of a COVID infection.
If your child has a runny nose or congestion, but a healthcare provider tells you that your child does not have COVID-19, please consider staying at home for 10 days and until overall symptoms have improved. Before bringing your child back to day care, school, or other in-person events, discuss your child’s symptoms with your healthcare provider, and review the daycare or school’s policies related to when a child who has been sick or showing COVID-like symptoms can return.
If you have a known COVID exposure, you can assume that your child is positive. If they continue to have mild symptoms you can often treat them symptomatically at home. After being in contact with someone with COVID-19, it can take up to 14 days to know if you are sick. This means that all members of the household should stay home and avoid contact with others outside of your home. An exception would be going to your doctor if advised.
If you have been in, or are currently in, a high transmission zone (most of the USA currently), and have attended a public or private gathering of more than 10 people without universal mask wearing and/or physical distancing, please quarantine your child and family. If you decide to have your child tested, remember a negative test does not mean that your child will remain negative at any time point after the test. Even with a negative test, the child should continue to wear a mask (if over 2 years of age and can physically do so), physically distance, avoid crowds and indoor crowded places, wash hands frequently, and monitor the child for increased or worsening symptoms.
Some PCR tests (used to directly detect the presence of an antigen, rather than the presence of antibodies) and rapid COVID tests have age limits to testing, so be sure to ask your doctor prior to having your child tested if that is what you wish to do.
If possible, have the sick child (and anyone else who has symptoms) keep away from others and use a separate bathroom for 10 days. When not able to keep away from others, a mask should be worn by all members of the household.
According to exantedata.com, Alabama is leading the nation in per capita hospitalizations and fastest increase in fatalities (160%) week-on-week Please avoid gatherings outside of your immediate household and indoor dining, and ensure you wear a mask even when socially distanced, and between eating and drinking, if you do choose to gather or dine-in. Take-out delivery or pickup are generally thought of as the safest options to continue to support local businesses and your palate!
Further Reading for Parents
Here are some Thrive Alabama Pediatrics recommended resources:
Patient Education: Covid & Children
Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Flu in Children 2020
COVID-19: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis in children
My Child is Showing Signs of COVID-19 at School: What Do I Do?
Overview of Testing for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
Frequently Asked Questions about Schools Re-opening
Guidance on Providing Pediatric Well-Care During COVID-19
Need a new pediatrician? Thrive Alabama is accepting new patients of all ages. They accept a variety of insurances including Medicaid and Medicare, plus they have a sliding fee scale for those who qualify. Call 256-536-4122 for pediatric care or visit thrivealabama.org for additional information.
ABOUT THE EXPERTS at THRIVE ALABAMA PEDIATRICS
Elizabeth Jennings, CRNP
Elizabeth is a Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner. She finds working with the pediatric population one of her greatest joys. Knowing that each day provides an opportunity to encourage and educate families, and show love and understanding to children in need are some of her favorite things about working in pediatric healthcare. In 2019, she had the honor of assisting in the development of Thrive Alabama Pediatrics program. Elizabeth also has more than 14 years of nursing experience in various areas of patient care. Her favorite areas of medicine are pediatric primary care, breastfeeding medicine, pediatric critical care, and neonatal intensive care. In addition to her extensive clinical experience, Elizabeth’s academic background includes two bachelor’s degrees from Auburn University (a BA in English and a BSN in nursing), certification as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and two master’s degrees from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Family Nurse Practitioner and Leadership in Healthcare Systems). Elizabeth resides in Huntsville with her husband, children, and their English springer spaniel, Nelson. For fun Elizabeth enjoys traveling, reading, running, and exploring the outdoors with her family.
Neha B. Shah, MD
Chief Medical Officer, Family Medicine
Dr. Shah is board certified in Family Medicine. Shah, a native of Decatur, Alabama, studied Political Science and Leadership Studies at Birmingham Southern College. She received her medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in 2008, and completed her residency, in Denver, Colorado at Exempla Saint Joseph’s Hospital in 2011 where she lived until moving back to North Alabama in 2020. Dr. Shah has always been interested in health policy and minimizing barriers to care, and has participated in AmeriCorps, and medical missions in Peru, Kenya, and varying projects in the U.S before joining Thrive Alabama Pediatrics. She has practiced both hospital and outpatient medicine, including four and a half years at a federally qualified health center where she worked as a primary care, after-hours, and refugee medicine physician, followed by three years as medical director dedicated to on-site medical care. She practices evidence-based medicine and thoroughly enjoys creating meaningful doctor-patient relationships that she believes are the key to effective and quality medical care. Further, she strives to engage patients in their own preventive care and wellness, and prioritizes treating the person, not just the disease. When not working, Dr. Shah enjoys spending time with family, watching Alabama football, and traveling.
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